Natalie Gross 0:00
If you desperately need to take a quick shower or hop on a work call on a day you don't have childcare. So what do you do? Well, you turn on the TV for a few minutes to keep your baby distracted. Now comes the mom guilt because you let your infant have screen time, something you never thought you'd do. And that's not okay. Right? Or is it? Today we're going to be exploring this topic of screen time and babies. You'll hear from moms who have been there before you as well as an expert who's educational YouTube show for babies and young children is changing the game. This is Newbies!
Natalie Gross 1:08
Welcome to Newbie! Newbies is your online on the go support group guiding new mothers through their baby's first year. I'm Natalie Gross, mom to a three year old boy and a girl on the way. We've got a great show today talking about screen time and babies. Now if you haven't already, be sure to visit our website at https://newmommymedia.com And subscribe to a weekly newsletter which keeps you updated on all the episodes we release each week. Another great way to stay updated is to hit that subscribe button in your podcast app. If you're looking for a way to get even more involved with our show, then check out our membership club. It's called Mighty Moms. That's where we chat about the topics discussed here on our show. And it's also an easy way to learn about our recording so you can join us live. Now let's meet the moms joining our conversation today. Tell us your name, location and a little bit about your family.
Emily Long 1:57
Hi, I'm Emily. I have three little ones. Our oldest is six and a half. Our middle is five and our youngest is two and a half. So my husband was all from brothers. So I thought we were gonna have all boys. So when our first was a girl, I was very surprised. And then our younger to our boys. So I am a stay at home mom. I have a music ed background. But I have not been in the classroom in six years.
Emily Vergner 2:26
Hi, I'm Emily Vergner, and I currently live in Alexandria, Virginia. And we have two children. We have a five year old son, and a one almost two year old little girl.
Natalie Gross 2:40
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining today. So where do you fall on screen time for babies and young kids? Are you for or against? And did that opinion change at all from before you had kids?
Emily Vergner 2:52
I for sure was against screentime. Before I was a mom. I had read all kinds of things that said, you know, you shouldn't allow screen time. But it definitely changed after I became a mom, just life got busy. And then. And it's an easy babysitter. I also really think that I it changed a lot watching my older child when he was a baby watching shows like educational shows. I felt like he really picked up a lot of language, because he stayed at home with me. And so literally, his language was built around whatever I said, and so I was exhausted reading and talking and playing with him literally all day every day. And so sometimes it gives me a break to fill in that language. And I feel like even things that I wasn't remembering to talk to him about. He was getting through like educational TV. And then I feel like it was almost impossible to follow the same rules that we followed when we had our second one.
Emily Long 4:01
Definitely coming into... so our first was born in the fall of 2015. And I had been out of littles world for a while and so I was of course approaching it with no screentime and then I got pregnant with our second when she was only 10 months old. So I started playing the baby balm, which I feel like was the precursor to cocoa melon. I'm not sure but there was pretty much always music in our home just because I liked music. So I came to realize, I guess my daughter started sitting up, but I never really I didn't do screen time probably until she was maybe nine or 10 months old. Of course I would watch my shows if I was nursing or if she was napping, but it was never, you know, Child Focused screen time. And then when the second one came along, there were moments where, you know, she was 18 months old, and I would just let her watch baby mom, but she wouldn't. Since I am a stay at home mom, I had the luxury of being able to have a rigid schedule for her. So we would do outside time, we would do stickers, we would play, she would just play with her toys. And then she loved playing with her baby brother. But there was always that moment to where I did want to just take a shower or let the baby sleep and not have her play and be loud. And you're like, if you could just sit still and be quiet. It was it was it was a conflict in my heart. I never, I don't think I really ever had horrible monbulk guilt, but it definitely is you're conscious of am I doing the right thing? Because I felt like I was getting so much pressure have no screen time, no screen time, no screen time. And then other times I'm like, How am I supposed to survive? Because there are so many resources. And so I started trying to do research and channel my inner teacher and try to find things that were more constructive, if that makes sense.
Natalie Gross 6:09
Yeah, definitely. And we're definitely gonna get more into that topic later on in the show. So rapid fire before we take a quick break. What is the favorite kid show in your house right now?
Emily Vergner 6:20
I would say Cocomelon.
Emily Long 6:23
Wild Kratts on PBS Kids- hands down.
Natalie Gross 6:29
When we come back, we'll be continuing our conversation on screentime and babies with our expert Rachel Griffin Accurso, so stay tuned.
Natalie Gross 6:42
Today on Newbies, we're talking about screen time and babies. Our expert today is Rachel Griffin Accurso. So the creator of songs for littles, a YouTube channel I discovered when my son was a baby. She's a passionate educator and award winning songwriter with a master's in music education from NYU. Rachel or Miss Rachel, I should say.
Natalie Gross 7:00
You can call me Rachel.
Natalie Gross 7:03
Thanks for joining us, and welcome to Newbies.
Rachel Griffin Accurso 7:05
Thanks for having me.
Natalie Gross 7:07
Yeah, you'll always be Miss Rachel in my head.
Rachel Griffin Accurso 7:11
It's sweet when adults call me Miss Rachel. I'm like, awww....
Natalie Gross 7:18
Well, tell us about songs for littles and what inspired you to start it?
Rachel Griffin Accurso 7:23
Yeah, well, my son definitely inspired the show, though. I've always loved children's media. I grew up on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers and Mr. Rogers has always been my hero. I love PBS, as your guests just mentioned, it's a great channel. But yeah, when I had my son, I stopped teaching public school music to be home with him. And when he was about a year old, I started songs for littles as an in person, baby toddler music and learning class. And I saw how helpful these songs with gestures are for language development and bonding. So I decided to put up a baby music class on YouTube. And then when my son had a speech delay, I got really interested in using media to help children with speech. And as we talked about, prior to this interview, my husband works on Broadway at Aladdin, and he's a puppeteer and a composer. So he joined in and helped me with all of his wonderful skills. And then I got this wonderful co teacher, Jules, and they joined in and we had our little team. And that's how it all started.
Natalie Gross 8:30
That's awesome. Well, as we've kind of touched on, you know, it kind of circled around already, I'm sure we've all heard research out there that screentime isn't really recommended for children before the age of two. So how if at all, did that play into you're starting this channel and wanting to change screentime, as you say, on your website to be more interactive, beneficial and educational.
Rachel Griffin Accurso 8:51
So I really like what your your mom guest shared that she was doing some screen time, but then they were playing outside and then they were doing stickers. I think balance is really key with screen time. And hands down. The best thing for babies is you you're the parents, you interacting with them and narrating your day, and singing with them. And you being the one to play peekaboo, but I think as we're discussing for many parents who have to clean and cook and just need a little moment for their mental health or breathe, it's unrealistic not to use any screen time. So what I wanted to do is create something for little ones and their parents that was more helpful than just entertainment. And was really research backed by techniques to encourage these milestones in speech and development and make something that felt more like a zoom class or a FaceTime call what we call active screen time and not passive. And one thing that I feel is special about songs for littles is at the same time that we're teaching these little ones. We're also teaching parents how to do the songs with them away from the screen, and we're putting milestones at the bottom of the screen so parents can learn these milestones because I find a lot of parents He messaged me and they weren't aware of the milestones and their child is three years old and has missed a time and didn't get that help as early as they could. So, you know, it's just I feel like we're trying to help both the children and the parents. And what's awesome is I'm getting a lot of tiktoks of parents doing these songs and little games and techniques away from the screen and I'm so excited to see oh, I learned the song from your channel. I learned this game to do with my baby from your channel. But now I'm doing it myself away from the screen. I'm doing it at mealtime. I'm doing it in the bath. And I'm like, oh, that's just exactly what we're hoping happens.
Natalie Gross 10:35
Yeah, well walk us through some ways that you are helping your baby viewers learn, you know, development or you know, like through these songs.
Rachel Griffin Accurso 10:45
Something I focus on that's not as widely known to be excellent for them is encouraging gestures. I work on 16 gestures by 16 months old. And gesture use nine to 16 months predicts language stability two years later, and language stability predicts predicts success and preschool. And before I had my son, I didn't know how important these gestures were. So I figured a lot of parents didn't know either. So I'm always modeling gestures on the show like clapping, waving, pointing, nodding, shaking head, no, saying I don't know. And then I use techniques I learned from my son's former speech therapist, Julie and Tricia chatterbox and my See, they taught me a lot of wonderful techniques, like, you know, saying to the children through this screen, while I'm holding bubbles Ready, set, and then they're gonna fill in go because they want to see me do the bubbles. So I use a lot of techniques from them. And then I use a lot of songs with gestures, I find with the cartoon nursery rhymes, sometimes they're they're showing the story of the song, but they're not showing these wonderful gestures. And children. If they're imitating these gestures, it's just so good for them. That's a built imitation and gestures are building blocks with speech, I also model imaginative play, which is more important than I also have realized before I became a mom that this pretend and imagine of plays is so important for children, because it's also it also just adds so much skill and imagination is just such an important skill. So and it's also a red flag if they're not doing the pretend play. So we try and point out the red flags and point out the milestones and help little ones. And their parents learn all about those.
Natalie Gross 12:33
Well, what sort of feedback have you gotten from parents of infants specifically about the show, you know, like that? Zero to 12 month range?
Rachel Griffin Accurso 12:41
Parents definitely comment that babies have learned gestures from the show, like leaving, and I see the Tick Tock videos, it's nice, because I can test the show, I see how the show's doing by watching, you stick dogs and families, and just help with first words, sign language, some of the babies have learned sign language from the show, and then they do it to the parent, the parents, like I have to watch the show more with you. Because I don't realize what that one is. The really cool thing is a lot of parents of children who are you know, 1112 months old, haven't had that first word, have said it's really helped with speech. And that's something that is definitely a mission of the show, is to help with with speech. So
Natalie Gross 13:25
Yeah, and you also incorporate like some sign language gestures, you know, kind of like you were talking about that I know helped my son. So I'll be I'll be a proud advocate there, too.
Rachel Griffin Accurso 13:36
Oh, that's great. I'm so great to hear that. So great to hear that.
Natalie Gross 13:39
Yeah. Well, I want to ask you the same question that I asked the other moms. So before you became a parent, what were your views on screen time? And how do those change or evolve over time?
Rachel Griffin Accurso 13:50
Definitely similar to your guests. Um, I thought I wouldn't use much at all. But having a toddler and the pandemic made it extra difficult not to use screen time, I always did think screen time can could be beneficial. And with my son speech delay, and him being such a visual learner, I really saw that for some reason, it did help him a lot with his speech. So I think now, my view is that balance is so important. I think before I became a mom, I was like, I'm going to be the most perfect mom and the best mom. And now I'm like, I'm going to love so much. I'm going to care so much. And I'm going to have balance and I'm going to let go that mom guilt because I don't need anything extra weighing me down. I need to focus on my son. And it's funny how we have that. That guilt just sort of appears and I'm like, Oh, what is this thing? So I really try and let that go and just play with him every day but also have balance in both of our lives with the screen time.
Natalie Gross 14:49
Well, let's talk more about that mom guilt after the break.
Natalie Gross 14:58
We are continuing our discussion on screentime in babies, so we were just kind of starting to touch on mom guilt. And one thing I want to discuss is you know that we're all moms of littles, during a pandemic, that seems like it may never end. So there there is that idealistic mindset of I will never sit my baby in front of a screen before they're two years old, because I know I started there. And then I broke that. Because there's the practical, right? Like, I really need to get something done. I don't have childcare. And many of us dealt with that during lockdown. So how would you say the pandemic has affected screentime usage in your households? And then, have you felt mom guilt about that and or shamed by other parents even? And how have you overcome that?
Emily Vergner 15:38
Yeah, this is Emily Vergner. And I feel like, one of the ways that I was really inspired by other moms to use screen time was through the use of like, brain breaks on YouTube to get up and get a little movement when we can get out of the house. And so I was really inspired by other moms that really encouraged me to do that. And so that was great. Of course, when in the depths of the pandemic, I was pregnant with our youngest. And I was also trying to work and with my three year old at home, and I felt terrible guilt, because literally, he spent way too many hours in front of the TV hours in front of the TV, because that was literally the only thing that would occupy him. But at some point, I realized, like, I just had to let them watch TV to survive for some kind of work life balance while I was working from home. I feel like we've had to learn a new normal. And we've, I've had to like, definitely set boundaries, and clear expectations with my five year old in particular, about when we can watch TV. And when we can't watch TV until we've learned that balance.
Emily Long 16:55
I would say that, honestly, the pandemic really helped me realize that we don't need TV. Whenever we hit it, we were watching, you know, they would wake up and they would watch maybe a little show, and we would do breakfast, and then they would watch a little show. And then I realized that no one was really cooperating. And depending on the show, no one was really being imaginative about play, or they just their brains were like on slow for about 15 minutes, and then they would start kicking in if that. Does that make sense? Yeah, it's like they were in a TV coma. And so what we started doing was just like Miss Rachel was saying, which Miss Rachel, I am totally a fan. We have done some of your songs, I just realized who you are. Many years. So you just you you hold on to that, because you want to be intentional, you know. And so I started totally writing out plans for our days, and for our weeks, one day, we would do animals and we would find all the animal songs on YouTube. And we would, then we would turn it off and we would act like the animal we would walk like the animal we would make the animal sound. But I feel like, like Miss Rachel, your shows you do you spark so many ideas in our minds. And it's helpful to be more productive, or I remember what I used to teach in the classroom 10 years ago, you know, and so it's just, it's so helpful to encourage, and to use those things as tools. And then they would think, Oh, well, let's go to this outside. Or we can draw a picture of this. Or I can make puppets with this. And so it's just during the pandemic, man, that was like coughing coffee to the veins, you know, because then it just sparked all these ideas. And, and I didn't feel guilty about it, because we've learned days of the week, months of the year, we've counted to 100 so many times with Jack Hartman.
Rachel Griffin Accurso 18:49
I mean, I love that guy so much.
Emily Long 18:52
You know, and so it's just so yeah, Natalie. Sorry, back to your original question. It was rough at time. But honestly, I feel like through the pandemic, we've learned that we don't need TV. And two, I will say, we don't, the only screens we have our one iPad and one TV in our home. Our children do not have TVs in their rooms. They do not have their own personal device. And I have busted out the PBS app games on my phone when we're in waiting rooms for appointments.
Rachel Griffin Accurso 19:24
You can't go wrong with PBS. PBS is wonderful.
Natalie Gross 19:27
Yeah, we love Daniel Tiger at our house because it's such a good like social emotional learning.
Rachel Griffin Accurso 19:33
Oh, Daniel, it's best. It's the best. I love him so much. That's one of my favorite shows. It's wonderful. I can answer the same question. With the pandemic. We definitely did more screen time because in the winter just being difficult to go out. But again, what we're all saying is you look at the quality of screen time and I think something good to do is Look at who is behind the screen time. And with PBS, Sesame Street, its educators, its researchers. So you can really think about what is the quality of this screen time. And as the creator of one of our favorite shows, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood says, Angela said tomorrow that there's a lot of nutrition of screen time. So you can do this the screen time, that's nutritious, and your kids are not passive and they're active and they're, they're engaged in it. And then you can shut it off and have a time where they're just exploring toys, or you're playing on the floor with them, or then you guys go to the park. So it's all about balance, I think balance is really healthy and important. And it's okay to watch some TV and you can just be kind to yourself about it. That's what I've come to do with myself be like, You know what, I'm doing a great job with my son, and I'm balancing things and it's okay, and I'm seeing the benefits of some screen time. And it's just fine. You know, we don't want to have all this guilt, it's just gonna weigh us down, you know?
Natalie Gross 21:08
Emily Long 21:10
I was just gonna say that, I totally echo that as well, we can't go through life without screens right now. And so I would rather teach my children to use them appropriately, in a healthy way that's constructive. And then also know that self control limit of okay, I did that, let's move on to something else. Because we do, I will add, during the pandemic, we added our Friday Night Movie Night. And so we get to watch, you know, our kid movie, a Disney movie, I do have some fans of The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. You know, just trying to, to use them to facilitate learning, our daughter started kindergarten and they gave her a laptop, because you don't know what's going to happen. So she knows how to use a laptop. She's used so many educational websites, and then she'll come home and say, Oh, I have my laptop, can I use it? And I'll say, let's not do that. You do that at school. And she'll just say, okay, and she'll find something else. So just trying to facilitate an environment to where they are beneficial, and to teach them. And I think also that we can be examples with our phones, as we have our screens and our things. There are so many times where I have caught myself, multitasking, whether I'm doing my calendar or responding to a quick email with three littles running around that I don't want them to see my phone or my tablet or whatever attached to my hand, I want to be intentional. So I'll say just a second, I'll put it down, or I'll just put it down. There's nothing too urgent then usually, then my child asking me for something, because I can remember and then so many times, I'll go back to them, oh, what do you need, I don't remember. And then again, there comes the mom guilt. So I have learned to try to be more intentional about what I'm doing. I won't respond to any of my messages, usually in the mornings. And then whenever it's quiet time or rest time or whenever they are having that screen time, all of my screen time. And so it's that accountability with my spouse, with my children and just trying to keep that in check. Of course, we are all human. And I think there's also we live in a reward system, you go to work, you get a salary. So there are moments where yeah, we turn on the crazy cartoons. We've re rediscovered, Tom and Jerry and Wil E coyote and the roadrunner and all these fun things that are not educational at all. They're fun for just a little bit. And I think again, echoing Rachel, that balance is really important and don't feel bad. You're a great mom. Everyone's a great mom. We are doing our best and we love our kids.
Natalie Gross 23:43
Let's talk about balance. So Emily long. I know you have three kids and I want to know how you balanced the new baby screen time. When you also had older kids who were old enough to watch TV was that difficult or easy to manage? Any tips you have for other parents listening would be great. And then Emily Bergner, if you want to answer after her because they have two kids, that'd be great.
Emily Long 24:02
I would say it's a steep learning curve. Every you know, every kid is different. Every family needs different dynamics. There were so many times where the second or third baby couldn't nap because the older child or children were making too much noise. So I would strategically place that pointless screentime to where it would benefit me. Okay, I would set the timer. All right, you've got your show baby's napping, I'm doing the dishes, or I'm taking a shower. And so just thinking through our day, instead of letting all of this anxiety rise up and make yourself feel like you're a failure. Just think through it. Write down where you need help in your day and when you don't need help. If you're working at home, try to manage that. If you're on maternity leave, it really helped me to get an hourly planner right out when you're nursing the baby right out when the kids get screen time and layer it to where it's beneficial. And again, there were many times when I failed with all of that. So definitely a learning experience, if that makes sense. And there are things that our youngest right now two and a half is watching that I would never let my oldest watch when they were two and a half. I mean, it's just it just it erodes your your resilience erodes. But I think also you become more wise through experience. And many times, I've totally messed up, I think it was last summer, they would wake up, and I would wake up when they woke up because I was so tired. And because, of course, the baby was sleep training, he was one and I would just turn on the TV to PBS Kids. And I would make myself feel good about it. And before I knew it, I'm still drinking my coffee, an hour has gone by, and no one has had breakfast. And so I set all of the kids down. And I just said, Hey, of course, the baby again, didn't care what I was saying. I just said, Hey, we're going to change our plan, we're going to try something new. And so every morning, I would get up 30 minutes before them, I would take my time I would make my schedule, I would do whatever I needed to do personally to prepare for the day. And then I would put two or three toys in the middle of the room right when they came out. So when they came down the stairs and saw the toys, they immediately played with those and they did not ask for screen time or a show. And so then I can make breakfast while they played. And that was that was a good change. But I had to come to the point where I would say, Oh, this needs to change, I've made a mistake, or we're going to try something new, or let's save our show for later. So I think being willing to to not admit your mistakes, but reevaluate your situation is always helpful.
Emily Vergner 26:32
Ya, this is Emily Vergner. And it was really difficult. Because, immediately, you know, we were in the middle of pandemic life. And so my oldest was watching a lot more TV. And I had a new baby. So I needed him to be occupied. So we just kind of tried to balance where he got to watch TV whenever baby was sleeping. And then once baby was around more often, it just, it just happened a lot earlier for her. Thankfully, she didn't seem to be interested in watching the TV. So I kind of got lucky there until recently. And now she's super interested in watching TV. So you know, it just kind of happened earlier with her than it did with him. But we just kind of had to find appropriate times when he could get that TV time and that screen time in when she was not around or she was sleeping.
Natalie Gross 27:26
Rachel, you know, maybe there are some parents listening who really do want to adhere to the recommendation and to steer clear of screen times screen time until their child's a little older. So, you know, with your background as an early childhood educator, do you have any tips for other activities that you know a baby a baby can do with his or herself to to keep them distracted long enough for parents to get stuff done?
Rachel Griffin Accurso 27:49
Yeah, you know, little ones, um, gosh, I haven't had a little one in a while he's four now he's still my baby. But...
Natalie Gross 27:56
Rachel Griffin Accurso 27:59
They can watch you do the dishes from a little seed. They can they can watch it as long as they're, they're not, you know, crying, they can watch you do these chores and just, you know, to them. It's like, wow, someone's watching dishes. I've never seen that. They can. They can play with little toys and, you know, entertain themselves a shape sorter is a great toy. Trying to think of what other little toys I like. But um, I think playing music can be fun. Like playing what's it called Siri or Alexa and, and singing songs together. But you know, they can just really explore toys. I definitely say it's great to learn some of these little songs like the wheels of the bus, the itsy bitsy spider. Some of the games like peekaboo so you can do them yourself. I did want to mention, there's something called serve and return that the center of the developing child at Harvard has. That's kind of thinking of your interactions with your baby like ping pong or tennis. So your baby points to something and then you're like, Yeah, that's a dish. I'm doing the dishes and you just kind of go back and forth and, and share attention and notice their experiences. I mean, you're walking down the street, they point out a tree, you're like, oh, yeah, that's a tree. It's a big tree and you just kind of talk about your everyday life. Sometimes I think we're like, we have to entertain them. We have to entertain them. And they're just like, amazed by you brushing your hair. They're just like, I'm happy watching you do stuff, you know, or you can get one of those baby carriers. And I always had my son in that Ergo carrier. Just kind of had them with me.
Natalie Gross 29:46
Well, those are some great tips. Any last thoughts here before we wrap up?
Rachel Griffin Accurso 29:50
Let go of the guilt.
Emily Long 29:52
Yes, definitely. Definitely. And try new things. It's totally fun to try new things and I as you're speaking Rachel, I'm remembering my oldest When I was pregnant, I would put her in the high chair in the kitchen and she would watch me do the dishes. I would get one of those sticky toys to the high chair and it would stick and she would play like this. Yes, yeah. Yeah. And we would we would do that. I mean of course you get the pots and pans out....
Rachel Griffin Accurso 30:15
Yeah, they love the pots and pans and like something that they can do like little sensory play with some someone on Tik Tok was sharing like you just give them a cup of water and they just like have fun with that they like try and drink it they pour it....
Emily Long 30:31
Yeah, and the serve in return you can make a song out of anything you know, just even those just a little call back and have him respond even with a smiley face. Not I mean the child would smile you do things to make them smile obviously. So yeah, don't don't ever be scared to be creative or try new things.
Emily Vergner 30:48
We got really into all kinds of sensory things you know, of course you have to be careful with a baby I got so used to being able to do like really tactile sensory things that with playing with beans and rice and all those things with my older so I had to kind of backtrack and start over again with my younger but putting things in a ziplock baggie and sealing them became a big thing for us and you know, building blocks and really, just more tactile things. We got really into all the books that are touching feel books, and then just letting her watch me or watch her brother play.
Natalie Gross 31:33
Awesome. Thank you so much to our expert Rachel Griffin Accurso so in our moms Emily Long and Emily Vergner who joined us for this episode today. Be sure to check out Rachel's website at https://songsforlittles.com It's also a YouTube channel. Also check out https://newmommymedia.com where we have all of our podcast episodes plus videos and more.
Natalie Gross 32:02
That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Newbies. Don't forget to check out our sister shows Preggie Pals for expecting parents, Parents Savers for moms and dads with toddlers, The Boob Group for moms who give breast milk to their babies and Twin Talks for parents of multiples. Thanks for listening to Newbies, your go-to source for new moms and new babies!
This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those are new mommy media and should not be considered facts. While such information and materials are believed to be accurate. It is not intended to replace or substitute for professional medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating healthcare problem or disease or prescribing any medication. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health, or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.